Imagine it’s Daviscup, even the final tournament, and part of it even in Austria – and nobody goes. The organizers of the ÖTV, who brought Group F to Innsbruck, are now faced with precisely this scenario. As great as the jubilation was after the bid, the disappointment is now bitter. In view of the lockdown, the games against Serbia – with world number one Novak Djokovic – on Friday and favorite rival Germany on Sunday will now be played without a spectator – a situation that is not known from international tennis matches.
Admittedly, not much has changed in terms of the starting position. In terms of sport, the Austrians, who not only have to get by without an audience, but also without number one Dominic Thiem, are outsiders against both nations. However, Dennis Novak and Co. are hoping for a surprise. And the mode makes this perhaps a little more possible with two singles and one double than it used to be with four singles and one double.
The big public festival, on the one hand against Djokovic, on the other hand the heated duel with Germany, only takes place in front of the television screens – ServusTV broadcasts the games live. In Group C France, the Czech Republic and Great Britain meet. The respective group winners play a quarter-finals on Tuesday, and the two best runners-up from all pools (two more in Madrid and Turin) have the chance of another quarter-finals in Madrid.
Austria can only dream of this due to the initial situation, but of course Stefan Koubek’s team will try everything to make this dream come true. “They are all in a good mood. Dennis can add one more slice in the match, the other two are pretty much the same,” says Koubek. With the “other two” the Carinthian means Gerald Melzer and Jurij Rodionov. “You can see that Gerald has had self-confidence from the last few weeks. Jurij may not have that, but he has the ball great on the racket. Everyone feels good here,” reports Koubek, who only wants to decide at short notice who next Novak is the second individual for the ÖTV.
The fact is that there will be the duel “Novak against Novak” in the second game after 4pm on Friday: Dennis Novak against Novak Djokovic – the number 118 in the world against the number one. The 28-year-old from Lower Austria is of course a clear outsider against the 20-time major winner in the first encounter with the Serb. “As a player you know that you really have to put in a very good performance. You are focused from the start, there is no warming up, especially not against Nole,” said Koubek of this match.
Lack of audience hits hard
Full concentration is automatically given anyway. “You know you are playing against the absolute best in the world.” His number one is a player who has always performed very well in the Davis Cup. And about Djokovic: “You can catch him on the wrong foot. That can happen here too. If Dennis is in a good mood, he can at least annoy him.”
Of course, they were also annoyed that the home advantage had almost completely disappeared without fans behind them. “We’ve known about Dominic for a long time that he won’t be there, but the lack of an audience is pretty tough for us – especially against the Germans,” he said. “That would have been interesting. The audience in Garmisch back then was also amazing, there is always a special atmosphere and that’s a shame.” But all moaning is of no use. “We will do everything we can to ensure that we seize and seize our opportunity.” In spite of many historical encounters, especially those in Unterpremstätten (2: 3 in 1994), Austria holds against Germany with a 0: 5 balance.
Kohlmann, who has to do without Olympic champion, Vienna winner and ATP finals triumphant Alexander Zverev, also regrets the lack of fans. “Innsbruck is not far from Munich, we would have had quite a lot of people here. Of course, the home advantage is definitely not to be discussed away and it would have been a particularly great atmosphere for us. It would have been against Austria as well as against Novak Djokovic and Serbia the stadium was definitely full, “said Koubek’s counterpart Michael Kohlmann. He hopes his team, led by Jan-Lennard Struff, will bring the performance to the field. “And we are expanding the series (against Austria, note) to 6-0.”
Kohlmann also sees Serbia as an absolute top favorite. Both Austria and Germany play in the group of three against the Serbs. “It’s an important game for both of us. After this game it will be decided whether we have a theoretical chance or not,” said the German. “We want to go to Madrid, we don’t care whether we are first or second.” And in the end it doesn’t matter whether with or without an audience.(art/what)